While excavating the wreck of the Gribshunden, a medieval warship off the coast of Sweden, a crew of researchers stumbled upon barrels they believe to hold traces of 500-year-old Danish beer.
After two weeks of digging on the sea bottom off Ronneby in Blekinge County, the researchers found a number of fascinating finds, such as coins, animal legs, parts of tools and a small ring, with a strange and difficult to understand inscription, the research crew said in a statement.
The most riveting find, however, is several barrels with holes for bottling and aeration. While they were clearly used for liquid, the working assumption is that they were used to carry beer. According to Professor Johan Rönnby at Södertörn University, it is very likely, as beer was a common commodity to have on board during sea voyages. Another compelling argument for beer is that water on board was not considered safe enough to drink.
The suspected beer barrels are marked with the letter "A" and fitted with two stoppers on the lid, which would have enabled easy pouring.
Brendan Foley, Rönnby's fellow researcher from Lund University, said that the team were currently taking samples from the barrels to determine their exact contents.
“We're taking sediment samples now and hoping we're going to find DNA evidence of hops”, he told The Local. “What we're doing is getting a look at not just what the men on the ship were drinking but what King John was taking to Kalmar to impress Sten Sture the Elder”.
Sten Sture the Elder led Swedish separatist forces to victory against royal unionist forces, who favoured continued ties with Denmark, at the Battle of Brunkeberg in 1471, after which he had established himself as the ruler of Sweden.
The investigations are a team effort by Lund University, Södertörn University, and the Blekinge Museum, in consultation with the Blekinge County Administrative Board and Ronneby Municipality, and include many international researchers
The over 30-metre-long Gribshunden, also known as the Griffen, was the flagship of King John of Denmark. It is considered one of the world's best preserved vessels of the same type Christopher Columbus had sailed. It sank in 1495 off the coast of southeastern Sweden, while on the way for talks with Swedish separatist forces.
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Maritime archaeologists in Sweden recently raised a figurehead depicting a monster from the fifteenth-century wreck of Gribshunden (“Griffon Dog”). archaeology.org/news #archaeology #sweden #gribshunden #figurehead (Courtesy Blekinge Museum, Photo: Ingemar Lundgren)